THAT CRAZY AUNT

We are in stage 4 lockdown where I live, which means people can only go out for four reasons – medical, work, and food and exercise within 5km of their residence. Besides homeschooling the children and the odd walk around the block, I’ve not discovered much inspiration or writing seeds for blog posts. I thought I’d use this time to work on my storytelling/writing skills using past experiences with some creative licence. Hope you enjoy my stories!


“Enough with the spying! Bring these plates out,” yelled Mum, upon seeing me half-crouched underneath the window sill.

I let the curtains fall back into place and did as Mum asked, bringing plates of tofu and cabbage to the dining table. I paused and pondered, repositioning cutlery and food around the hot-pot to make it visually appealing. Satisfied with the result, I wandered back to my spot by the window to watch for arriving guests, careful not to be seen. I didn’t want to look like a weirdo or anything.

I invited just about everyone, even the mean girl from class because statistical probability and all that. I wasn’t entirely confident with the RSVPs, what if they pulled out? I didn’t want to be known as the loner girl who had a party that no one came to. How horrifying would that be? I couldn’t go back to school ever again!

“Don’t touch the food Aunty Ut!” I called out after noticing her small stature hovering around the food. Aunty Ut was worse than a bloodhound with a penchant for free meals and table manners rivalling that of Cookie Monster on a binge fest. I didn’t appreciate her presence here cramping my style. Not that I had any style other than geek and meek. Still, having a crazy and uncouth aunt saying and doing strange things wouldn’t help with my social status or keeping friends.

“What? I didn’t touch anything! I’m just looking!” exclaimed Aunty Ut, looking sheepish at being caught.

I gave her a withering glare before turning down the volume on the TV, kicking the mess of microphone cables to the side. Dad had turned on the Vietnamese karaoke music to a deafening level. Thank goodness our neighbours were hard of hearing.

“Go check the garage. I’ve finished setting it up.” Dad mumbled through a mouthful of duct tape while bent over on the ground sticking power cables to the carpet. The extension cords snaked along the walls, outside the window and to the garage, where several large speakers were set up to play music for the dancing.

I bypassed Mum and Aunty Ut, ignoring their bickering over the right amount of MSG for soup stock and headed towards the garage. All the junk was pushed farther back into the single two-car deep garage and a tarp hung from the ceiling, giving the feel of an empty warehouse, albeit small.

“Your friends are here!” My seven-year-old brother hollered before running off.

Filled with excitement and nerves, I raced out to greet my guests. To my delight, most of the invitees had come to my birthday party. Having no experience with attending or hosting a birthday party, I started the hot-pot immediately after everyone’s arrival to avoid awkward conversations or unnecessary foot shuffles.

I cringed inwardly upon seeing some of the girls wrinkling their noses at the unfamiliar foods. Some couldn’t eat seafood while others didn’t know what hot-pot was.

“This jar is expired!” One of the mean girls was holding up a jar of hoisin sauce and showing everyone around the table.

Blushing with embarrassment, I grabbed the jar off her and apologised. “Uh, I don’t know how that got there.”

I gave the jar to Mum and asked quietly if we had another one that was in date. I winced when her annoyed voice boomed across the room, loud enough for those standing next door to hear.

“What? Why? It’s still good! You young kids not understand hard work and money. When I was younger, I ate everything!” Mum’s diatribe continued until she ran out of puff. Luckily it didn’t take long.

Returning to the room, I put on my happy face and pretended like no one heard Mum and her ranting. All mothers rant, right? So it’s not something these girls haven’t heard before.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Feels like a sauna!”

Aunty Ut had turned on the ducted heating to thirty degrees. Who in their right mind would turn on a heater while eating hot-pot on a mild Spring day? I swore she had a few missing screws.

“What?! It’s good to sweat for the pores!” Aunty Ut and her terrible excuses.

Thankfully, we finished the hot-pot without further problems. I ushered my new friends to the makeshift dance floor and with the radio blasting in a darkened room, the atmosphere changed and the party improved.

“What are you doing?” asked a girl named Leila, who stopped her dancing to look at me.

With arms flailing and legs shuffling from side to side at supersonic speeds, I replied, “Dancing Hip Hop?” I might have replicated Urkel’s Dance.

“Oh no girl, this is how you do it. Slow your movements and bend lower.” Leila and a few others took pity on me and gave a few pointers on how to look cool dancing to R&B music.

Amidst learning how to pop and lock, the sound of Vietnamese pop music started blaring through the speakers, causing the dancing to grind to a halt.

“Dad! No one wants to listen to Vietnamese folk songs!”

It seemed like a good time as any for cake.

“Happy birthday!”

The smiles on everyone’s faces and well-wishes filled me with warmth, and I beamed with happiness. I wouldn’t have called the party a complete success, considering a few unexpected setbacks, but overall, it had turned out ok. I could see myself being close friends with some of these girls. Maybe if Mum and Dad stayed put this time, I could even have a best friend.

I leaned over the cake and readied to blow out the candles. From the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of Aunty Ut moving into my periphery, lips in the shape of an O and in slow-mo horror, let out a gigantic snozzy sneeze all over my cake. In her efforts, she snuffed out the flames of fifteen birthday candles.

There was a collective gasp as boogers landed on the cake followed by the wailing sound that escaped from my lips. It was of little surprise that not a single person wanted a slice of cake, including the birthday girl.

I thought expired food, Mum’s ranting and sitting in furnace-like temperatures were bad enough, but BoogerGate and Dad belting out karaoke songs upon the guests departing took the party to a level beyond salvageable.

As far as parties go being memorable, at least people will be talking about mine for some time.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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FAT NEEDLE FOR A FAT BOTTOM

Reflection from 13/07/20 – In stage 3 lockdown, dreaded remote school learning has returned.

Getting older sucks donkey balls. My hair has started falling out at such an alarming rate that I fear I’ll be as bald as a baby’s bottom in a matter of years. Gravity is waging and winning the war against my breasts. My stomach refuses to stay tucked inside my pants. My skin is constantly dry. 

I especially hate the aches and pains. My joints have started hurting. Standing too long causes back pain. Sleep is hard to come by.  My vision continues to deteriorate. It’s these problems that make me acutely aware that I’m no longer a spring chicken and that I should I start looking after my physical health.

Today I went to get an ultrasound and cortisone injection into my right hip. I have another one schedule next week for my left shoulder. I’ve have bursitis (inflammation in the bursae, the fluid pads that cushion the joints), that I’ve left untreated for years. I sought medical intervention when the pain began impacting the quality of my sleep and became so unbearable that I couldn’t fall asleep without taking paracetamol at night.

After changing into a blue gown, the radiographer led me to a small treatment room and positioned me on the bed. There is nothing more embarrassing than having your naked butt cheek intimately exposed to complete strangers. I mean, I guess these people are professionals and see this sort of stuff all the time, but it doesn’t make it any less awkward.

As we waited for the radiologist to arrive, I reflected on why I was there: my aversion to sweating and exercise, preference for cheap shoes, unsteady gait (not alcohol related, I promise!), year on year weight gain, addiction to anything fried/battered/salty.

An older gent with a rotund belly entered the room and gave a perfunctory introduction and explanation of the procedure. 

“Can you point to where the pain is the worst?” asked the doctor, holding a tube of jelly and the ultrasound wand.

“Uh here?” I pointed to a sore spot on my hip.

“Okay. If I point here, does it hurt? What about here? And here?” The doctor poked various areas before putting jelly on the spot I pointed to and placed the wand on my skin.

“Hmmm, Jenny show me the picture further down. Yes, 34. Right, that’s a tight spot to get a needle in.” He was doing a lot of muttering to himself.

“Um, will it help if I move my position?” I asked, trying to be helpful. I mean I didn’t want him making a mistake if I could help it.

“No. It won’t matter. The spot that the needle has to be inserted is very narrow. I will need to change the needle size.” He turned away to grab another needle from the tray.

“I guess it will hurt more then,” I offered weakly.

“Yes and no. It will feel like an intramuscular injection. Look I’ll show you the difference.” He held up two needles. One was about two inches longer and double the thickness. I took an audible gulp.

“There is a thick layer of fat the needle needs to get through, so we must use this needle. Do you need a local anaesthetic? How is your pain threshold?”

Did this dude just inadvertently call me a fat ass? Like literally? And now asking if I was a wimp??

“I’ve given birth to two kids. I think I can handle a needle,” I muttered, somewhat crossly.

It did hurt, but only when the needle struck close to the bone and the fluid was being injected. Not that I would admit it to the doctor.

“You did very well. You didn’t even wince. I say that ‘cos I’ve had patients say they have a high pain threshold and start asking for a local as soon as the needle hits the skin.” Seemed like high praise from the good doctor. Still didn’t take the sting from his unintentional fat ass comment.

I left the radiology clinic almost two hundred dollars out of pocket, with a sore hip, and a slightly bruised ego. Hopefully, when I return next week, he won’t need the fat needle for my shoulder.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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STEPPING INTO THE UNKNOWN

Overthinking and overanalysing is a common problem with anxiety sufferers. The mind likes to run in endless loops of worthless conjecture, questioning, dissecting and criticizing every decision and response. It becomes a hardwired obsessive behaviour that leaves the person physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Without intervention and retraining of the mind, life can feel like an insurmountable hurdle.

I’ve suffered from anxiety for a long time, possibly since I was a child. Yet, it wasn’t until my breakdown at work last year that I was willing to accept that I was mentally unwell and needed help. My unchecked and untreated anxiety had become all-consuming, affecting my every thought, decision and action. It had become mental warfare to my subconscious and conscious mind, making me overfraught and fatigued. Simply avoiding anxiety triggers and shying from new experiences were not keeping that beast of anxiety at bay any longer. I had to be in control, in everything and everyone – an impossible task.

Since undergoing psychological counselling and treatment, I better understand what drives my patterns of negative thinking. I’m learning to recalibrate my thought processes through mindfulness. Instead of avoiding triggers (e.g. school runs, meeting new people), I consciously put myself in those uncomfortable situations, accept the unwanted fear and stress, and try to reduce my anxiety levels through exposure therapy. Baby steps. Tiny baby steps.

Recently, we visited Erskine Falls, a popular tourist attraction in Lorne. We travelled a small stretch of the 243km length of the Great Ocean Road to get to this destination. We drove on winding roads that mostly hugged the coastline with scenic views of beaches, limestone and sandstone cliffs, passed through several popular coastal towns before traversing through beautiful rainforests.

Most people would have admired the views, taken a great deal of photos and chalked up the drive as a great experience. For someone like me who is terrified of heights and has an abnormal fear of death, the drive was akin to an extreme form of exposure therapy. I was shitting my dacks.

“Slow down around the bends!”
“The sign says 40!”
“Should we use fog lights?”

I was the unwanted backseat driver (in this case, passenger seat driver) that everyone loathes to travel with. My husband was at risk of repetitive strain injury from eye-rolling. That was how bad I was with projecting my fears.

“Why is Mum so scared?” my children asked.
“Mummy sees danger everywhere. She finds it hard to relax and just enjoy things,” my husband replied.

I had an irrational fear that the car would veer off the road and crash on the jagged rocks below. Rationally, I understood that it was unlikely and that my husband would never put us in harm’s way. It was like a bad rollercoaster ride that I couldn’t get off and all I could do was grasp the car door handle with white knuckles and close my eyes every time we took a sharp bend. Eventually, we made it to the destination. I was in one piece, relatively speaking.

Oh, but the fun didn’t end there! As we entered the trails, I saw a sign that sent shivers down my spine.

ARE WE GOING THE RIGHT WAY FOLKS??

Immediately, the alert beacons sounded and danger in flashing neon lights threatened to overwhelm my logical mind. 

Did we REALLY want to look at some water falling down rocks? What if someone slips and gets hurt? Ssssssnakes?

While I was having a mini-mind meltdown of what ifs, the crew bounded down the rock steps before I could voice my concerns. I forced my feet to move after the kids yelled out “Come on Mum, stop being a scaredy cat!”

STEPS… SO MANY STEPS!

Have you seen anything more frightening? I was worried to see fit looking people huffing and puffing as they struggled back up the steps. For someone who hates sweating and is unfit, the sight was disturbing. There was a distinct possibility that I’d need a rescue team to retrieve me from whence I lay.

By the time I got my plump behind to the bottom, the crew had begun to venture off the dirt path and rock jumping along the stream bed.

“It’s fine. Don’t be a party pooper. Live a little.” This was my husband’s response to my concerns about safety.

“You’re only as old as you feel and I am not old. Don’t make me old cos you want to be old.” This was my father in-law’s response to my mother in-law’s grumbling over him joining in on the fun.

ROCK JUMPING ON STREAM BED

Unfortunately, my husband slipped on a rock while holding our three-year-old son, Henry and fell into the water. Luckily for Henry, my husband had turned his body to take the brunt of the fall. Panicked at the sight of the two of them in the water, I yelled at my seven-year-old daughter and the in-laws to stay put while I raced over to inspect the damage and placate a wailing child. I really wanted to say ‘I told you so!’ 

My husband sustained massive black bruises along his right shin, knee and thigh. Thankfully, Henry only had to deal with a wet shoe. As we trudged back up the steps, Henry kept saying over and over “That was a terrible idea! A terrible idea Daddy!” To which my husband would apologise for not turning back when he felt uncomfortable. However, by the time we reached the top, Henry had exclaimed “Let’s do that again!”

Upon reflection, I’m grateful that my children are inquisitive, energetic and ready to seek new adventures. I hope that they always see mistakes as opportunities to improve and learn from. I want them to feel that it’s okay to take a chance, try something new and not be downtrodden if things don’t go to plan. That it is not a sign of failure.

Raising resilient children is important to me. I hope that by facing my fears, by not depriving myself of new experiences, being open to personal growth and development, and building my emotional resilience, that I am setting a better example for my children.

In saying all this, I don’t think I was supposed to jump in the deep end and almost drown in anxiety with this whole exposure therapy business. Remember… baby steps.

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